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Was Joe Biden “Two-Faced” on the bin Laden Raid?

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Hamid Mir via Wikimedia Commons

For reasons seemingly inexplicable the May 2 10th anniversary of the successful U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hiding place passed almost without mention. Comments were made and the White House did issue a statement in the president’s name to mark the day but for the most part, it did not get the attention it deserved. 

People have forgotten how devastated we were after a handful of terrorists working for bin Laden seized control of commercial airliners and flew them into Manhattan’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 Americans. As a nation, we vowed our dead would be avenged. A decade later, they were – and America justifiably rejoiced. 

President Joe Biden’s observations on the anniversary were measured.  “Ten years ago, I joined President Obama and members of our national security team, crowded into the Situation Room to watch as our military delivered long-awaited justice to Osama bin Laden,” he said. “It is a moment I will never forget—the intelligence professionals who had painstakingly tracked him down; the clarity and conviction of President Obama in making the call; the courage and skill of our team on the ground. It had been almost ten years since our nation was attacked on 9/11 and we went to war in Afghanistan, pursuing al Qaeda and its leaders.”

“We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell—and we got him. We kept the promise to all those who lost loved ones on 9/11: that we would never forget those we had lost, and that the United States will never waver in our commitment to prevent another attack on our homeland and to keep the American people safe.”

Indeed, and to give credit where credit is due, the successful assault on bin Laden’s compound was a military and political success for the Obama/Biden Administration. The president is right to be proud of his involvement in bringing it about – even if his recollection of what went on isn’t exactly spot on. You see, according to no less an authority than the former president himself, if Biden’s advice had been followed the raid on bin Laden might never have happened at all. 

What the president neglects to say, what he has recrafted the narrative to obscure, is that he advised Barack Obama to wait to order the raid. “Joe weighed in against the raid,” Obama wrote in A Promised Land about the discussion of the mission the former chief executive eventually gave the green light.

“As had been true in every major decision I’d made as president,” Obama wrote, “I appreciated Joe’s willingness to buck the prevailing mood and ask tough questions, often in the interest of giving me the space I needed for my own internal deliberations.”

“Buck the prevailing mood”? It’s a damning description of the former vice president’s actions before the raid, even more so considering the “It was a win for the team” sentiments expressed in the official White House 10thanniversary statement.

This is not the first time Biden has been called to account for remembering things differently than others in the circle of influence advising the president on one of the most important acts he would take while in office. Not only that, but he was also – as National Review’s Dan McLaughlin has written – consistently wrong in his criticism of Bush-era efforts that led to bin Laden being found. 

“One, the hard part was finding bin Laden, and we found him in large part due to Bush-era policies that Obama and the Democrats had criticized,” Mclaughlin wrote just before the anniversary. “And two, while Obama deserves the credit for making the decision to go ahead with the raid (after a fair amount of hemming and hawing), and most of Obama’s team went along with the decision, the historical record is quite clear that Joe Biden opposed it.”

It’s also quite clear that, if “WE” did follow bin Laden “to the gates of Hell” that Joe Biden was at the back of the pack. If he was even there at all. It sure looks like he is trying to claim credit for being one of the fathers – to borrow a word from Jack Kennedy — of an action he opposed. The president’s dissembling – something he does with disturbing regularity– deserves closer scrutiny.  If we can’t trust him to be truthful about something that happened ten years ago, how can we trust him to be truthful about what he’s doing now?


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